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Fanon:Fate is a Middle-Aged Man (Bathe in Flames)

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Chapter One - 1
Chapter information

Bathe in Flames


One: Air



Written by


Release date

August 29, 2013

Last chapter

Freedom at a Price

Next chapter

To climb a mountain

Thus the story begins

Order of the White Lotus Headquarters, Republic City, 224 AG

A total of six people sat in the council room. Four whispered among themselves. The other two, an older man and a boy no more than twelve years old, waited silently. One of the other four cleared his throat, shuffled some papers, and stared through the boy as if he were any common criminal. "The Avatar has been found guilty of all charges..."

The outcome could have been predicted. Beside the young boy, the man placed his hand in consolation. All the words began to blur together as the sentence was read. He stood, though the man tried to tell him otherwise. At the top of his lungs, he screamed. Nothing in particular: the confused cry of frustration from a young boy whose life was suddenly falling. His fist clenched at his side, he thought about bending. They must have thought he would; two burly policemen barged in, grabbing the boy's arms to restrain him.

All the young boy could think to do was dig in his heels and keep yelling while the two officers dragged him from the Council Room. On the opposite end of the room, the four who had written his sentence stood and turned without a second glance at the boy. Even the man who had stood beside the boy for the trial remained standing with his back to him. The two men lifted the boy off of the ground so they could easily leave, but he kept screaming and kicking through the halls of the Council building.

Others lined the halls, some of whom watched as he was dragged to his fate while others pretended not to notice. A painful spectacle for anyone to behold: a young boy being convicted of a crime he hardly had any control over. Even now the boy did not know the full extent of the sentence, but he still struggled against the grip of the two men with all his might. Now, his screams had some meaning: he shouted pleas and curses to the police officers, to those who sentenced him, to the spirits. No one listened.

His prison cell had been specially made for him – the construction was the only reason the trial took as long as it did. The three made only one stop on the descent to the young boy's new residence: a stop to put on the boy's permanent bindings. In the sentence, his permanent restraints were detailed: anti-bending cuffs on his hands and feet, and an anti-bending muzzle over his mouth. Even after being dragged through an entire building as if on display, the young boy still had not lost his resolve to fight against his fate. Though he could not scream anymore, and struggle was more difficult, the young boy continued to squirm. Another appeared to open the door to the prison once they arrived, and the two others literally heaved the boy into the cell.

Though the large empty metal box did not seem impressive, the platinum would be resistant to firebending, and could not be earthbended. The only light that poured into the room was from the doorway. After the young boy was in the cell, that heavy door swung closed, sealing him in the dark, empty box. Up until now, the boy could have struggled against his captors, and that was enough to keep him going. But now, he could do nothing. He was completely alone.

He tried to stand, but realized that in his struggling he had landed on his right leg and broken it. Tears flowed down his cheeks as he dragged himself to a corner of the room where he could prop his back against one wall and lean against another. His crying was silent, filled with hiccups from not being able to get enough air to breathe properly. Realizing that the restraints were affecting him in this way, he tried to calm himself down, but found that he could not. Anyone outside could not hear him and, if they could he had a feeling that they would not care. His eyes began to dry out, and he eventually drifted into an uneasy sleep.

"Young Avatar..." a voice rocked the boy out of his sleep. His eyes blinked open to find that he was staring at the bottom of a long, red robe. He followed the robe upwards, noting that it appeared to be old Fire Nation attire, until he met the eyes of and old man. The old man had long, white hair and a flowing white beard which clung to his chin. Though wrinkles lined his face, the boy had a feeling that this man was as – if not more – powerful a bender as any younger man. "Stand," the old man commanded gently.

Only hours before he had broken his leg, yet now the boy found that he could stand. "Who... are you?" The boy stammered the question, more out of instinct than anything else. In doing so, he also realized that he no longer had any of the restraints.

"I am Avatar Roku. I am your predecessor of fire."

Everything had happened so fast: it took the boy a moment to remember everything he had heard and experienced about his identity. "Why can I stand? And talk?"

"Look behind you."

The boy did. Behind him, he saw himself: a crumpled and beaten little form. Startled, the boy turned back to the apparition before him and began to ask why he was apparently out of his own body.

"Your spirit form has left your body... you are partially in the Spirit World, though your spirit needs help to make it journey the rest of the way," the Avatar explained. This information overwhelmed the young boy, and all he could do was shake his head. "But... if I'm only partially in the Spirit World, why can I see you?"

Though the boy seemed overwhelmed, Roku's tone remained matter-of-fact. "I came to you, Avatar, to help guide you into the Spirit World. But you must make the decision to follow."

Order of the White Lotus Headquarters, Republic City, 235 AG

The figure stepped deeper into the room, causing the Avatar to tense. This man's attire was odd – a pure white suit with a black shirt seeming almost inverted from the norm. His face wrinkled with some age, accented with a wispy moustache and goatee. "I am a friend, don't worry." He neared the Avatar, extending his hand. Hesitantly, the Avatar met the other's grip, feeling himself get lifted off the ground. His legs were shaky and at first he almost toppled over, to be caught by the mysterious man. "Here, let me get those bindings off." From his pocket, the man produced a key, which he inserted into the lock of the hand restraints and feet restraints. In a quick flick of his wrist, he gestured to the Avatar to turn around while he removed the muzzle as well.

Once the restraints fell to the ground, the Avatar rubbed his jaw before examining his wrists and ankles. They were discolored for all these years, and he suspected that they may never fully return to their natural colors, or at least would take a while. "I owe you my thanks," the Avatar spoke, pausing as he realized that his voice was considerable lower than the last time he heard himself speak. "But... who exactly are you?"

"Ah! I suppose I didn't introduce myself yet. Call me 'Moshui'. It's more of a title than a name, but it'll do."

"Moshui," the Avatar turned the name over in his head. "And you already know who I am."

With the Avatar's eyes slowly becoming adjusted to the lighting, he noticed Moshui smile from underneath a tuft of facial hair. "Indeed. Avatar Zian Ye... I highly doubt there's a man or child alive today who doesn't know who you are."

Shouting and the clatter of footsteps could be heard from outside; the Order of the White Lotus apparently did not welcome this new guest. "Tell me, Moshui," the Avatar glanced over the other's shoulder at silhouettes sprinting down the hall, "do you have a plan for getting out of here, or am I about to get a much stricter sentencing?"

Glancing behind him, Moshui counted the number of figures coming and replied, "There aren't too many of them, but I'd appreciate your help... if your skills aren't too rusty."

Zian - 2 - copy - 2

"Only one way to find out"

Zian held his hand in front of his heart with his palm facing upward, creating a small, controlled ball of fire. "Only one way to find out."

Now, the figures had closed the gap. Five blocked the exit from the chamber; from their skin color and eyes, it appeared that there were two earthbenders: one a big fellow who looked like he would be a good fighter with and without his bending, the other was thinner and shorter, but still looked pretty athletic. In addition, there were two firebenders: a slim woman and an arrogant looking man. The final figure looked to be a waterbender – long hair, dark skin, well built. Each took their respective bending stance, confirming the analysis of their appearances.

"They shouldn't be a problem," the cocky-looking firebender said to his colleagues, as if Moshui and Zian were deaf. "Date said the old one isn't a bender and the Avatar hasn't used his bending in years."

"'Old'?!" Moshui repeated the title given by the firebender in an offended tone. "If I am old, then your boss is ancient."

"You're outnumbered. Step away from the Avatar and we won't hurt you," the waterbender said, ignoring Moshui's statement as well as that of his firebending colleague.

Neither side moved, at first, until Zian grabbed his sleeve causing the five Order of the White Lotus members to become tense. He pulled outward, tearing off a long strip of fabric. "I'm not so willing to go back into captivity myself," he expressed while using the cloth to tie his overgrown jet black hair into a low ponytail. After tying it back, he shook his hair a bit, causing a few bangs to fall into his face.

"Then we'll just have to beat you back into captivity," the conceited OWL firebender replied.

Not surprisingly, this bender made the first move. He opened his stance by moving his front foot forward, and punched several blasts of fire at Zian and Moshui. The former stepped in front of Moshui and as the fireballs closed in on them he made a circular sweeping motion with his arms, successfully causing the flames to dissipate. Before Zian could begin a counterattack, the smaller earthbender slammed his feet into the ground causing the floor beneath Zian to shatter. Unlike the prison cell, this ground was made of an impure metal that could be controlled through earthbending.

The ground beneath Zian split into a triangular shard which lifted off the ground in an attempt to knock him backwards. Instead, as the floor tipped backwards, Zian pushed off of the toes of his left foot, tucking his right leg in as he spun in the air. In mid-spin, he extended his right leg, creating a stream of fire that collided with the closest opponent: the arrogant firebender. As Zian's heel came down, the firebender blocked the foot itself, though the flames licked his face. The opponent tried to use this block as leverage, however Zian reacted quicker; he pushed off of the firebender's forearm to propel himself backwards.

It seemed that the cocky firebender was offended by this display, as he began to move into another attack despite the burns on his face. His moves had slowed, which Zian used to his advantage. A large, sloppy punch of flames came towards the Avatar, which he easily dodged and moved in. Pivoting on his left leg, Zian twisted his body and snapped his strong leg at the other firebender. The distance was small enough that Zian's foot collided with the opponent's stomach, probably shattering a few ribs. At the same time, Zian released a burst of flames which seared the firebenders clothes and launched him to the ground. While their colleague howled in pain, the other OWL guards stared at the Avatar in shock.

Of the enemies, the waterbender regained his composure first. From a satchel of water at his hip, the bender produced a stream of water which he solidified into an ice spike. The spike launched with a flick of the waterbender's wrist toward the Avatar. Zian reacted just as the projectile was inches from his face; he grabbed the spike and melted it into a puddle at his feet with his firebending. His lack of combat experience betrayed him when he tried to move: the waterbender had frozen the water at his feet, locking the Avatar in place.

Rather than the waterbender attack again, the female firebender took advantage of the opening. She ducked low, quickly rushing in while Zian braced himself for an attack. Only feet away, she punched her left knee into the air, leaping off the ground as she snapped her other leg to launch a blast of fire at point-blank range. In mid-motion, she fell limp and hit the ground hard. Behind her, Moshui stood poised with his left fist clenched. While she focused on the Avatar, he had moved around behind her so as to protect the currently immobile Avatar.

Though two of their own had fallen, the other three did not seem discouraged. The big earthbender viciously slammed into the earth, further breaking the floor. Instead of aiming the attack at the Avatar, this earthbender pulled a piece of the floor up, forming it into a sharp disc approximately a meter in diameter. He pulled it to his side and launched it at Zian and Moshui. The spinning disc was far off from hitting Moshui, who easily dodged to the side. Zian pushed off the bottom of his heels to avoid – being still bound to the ground he could not fully dodge – and just barely succeeded; the stray bangs of his ponytail had a little over a centimeter cut off by the attack.

At this point in the battle, it became apparent that the three did not want to give the Avatar or Moshui an opening. The big earthbender began another similar attack while the other earthbender punched the ground to form metal gloves. While Zian still could not move, the smaller earthbender rushed in, aiming a sharp punch at the Avatar's stomach. It collided, causing Zian to reel in pain. Meanwhile, the waterbender still focused on maintaining the restriction on the Avatar while the larger earthbender focused on Moshui. Another punch at Zian stomach followed and the Avatar lifted his fist upward to try to fight back. He created a fireball focused at the bottom of his fist which he attempted to slam against the attacker's head. The earthbender caught the fireball in his metal glove, clenching it to make the flames dissipate.

With the next punch from the earthbender, Zian noticed that his feet lurched backwards – the ice had melted. A left punch came, which Zian avoided in one easy movement to throw the earthbender off balance. As he dodged, Zian pivoted and extended his right leg. He spun so that his heel faced the opponent's face, creating a focused area of fire which collided with the earthbender's cheek to knock the enemy to the ground. With another opponent defeated, he looked to see how his rescuer fared. The waterbender was down, though Moshui now engaged in what appeared to be some sort of wrestling fight with the huge earthbender.

The middle-aged man desperately held onto the earthbender's forearms while the massive man struggled like a beast. Noting that Moshui had the earthbender distracted, Zian came up behind and quickly bent down, straightening his right leg to make a sweeping kick to knock the earthbender off of his feet. While executing the kick, Zian focused a stream of fire which burned the large man as he toppled. Moshui released his grip and dodged the falling form.

All five opponents lay defeated though a few on the brink of consciousness. With no active threats, the two had opportunity for a brief rest. "Phew," Moshui said somewhat anticlimactically while straightening his suit jacket.

Out of curiosity, Zian approached the nearest of the opponents Moshui had taken out – the waterbender – and felt his pulse on the man's wrist. Nothing.

"We need to get moving," the mysterious savior said quickly and somewhat defensively.

Zian had a feeling it would do nothing to ask Moshui how he killed these guards, and more footsteps could be heard, for now faint and distant. He stood and glanced around. His cell was situated at the end of a long staircase and hallway, and undoubtedly the end of that hallway would be the answer. In addition, Zian figured that escape would involve more fighting due to the fact that only one way in or out existed. Rather than say anything more, the Avatar nodded and began to run down the hall. The adrenaline from fighting had counteracted some of the stiffness from being locked up eleven years; now that the fight was over, sharp bursts of pain shot through Zian's legs with every step he took.

They made it almost to a doorway at the end of the hall before running into more guards. This time, there were only three, though in the close quarters of the space a full on duel would be next to impossible. Before they could enter a fighting stance, Zian pulled his hands into his chest – left hand cradling a ball of fire created by the right hand. In mid stride, he thrust his hands forward to launch a stream of flames at the opponents. The enemies reeled, creating an opening for Zian and Moshui to duck through. Not wasting time to open the door, Zian slammed his left shoulder into end of the metal door opposite the hinges to force it open.

Free from the long metal hallway, the two staggered into what appeared to be some sort of storage room. To Zian's surprise, the only OWL sentries lay unmoving on the ground – undoubtedly Moshui's doing. The aforementioned closed and blocked the door behind them. "There's a supply elevator in this room that leads to the garage. A car is waiting for us there."

Indeed there was a supply elevator, and which the two entered. The elevator in essence was a large metal cage with a few buttons, one of which Moshui pressed. There were no conventional elevator doors, and the box began to creak, to Zian's brief surprise, upward slowly. As they ascended, a few more guards barged through the door, catching Moshui and the Avatar's eye briefly. Since Zian's prison was underground, the garage happened to be the next floor up.

The elevator creaked to a halt, and Zian immediately noticed a flashy black car situated just beyond. His suspicion that this car belonged to Moshui was confirmed as the latter led him to the vehicle. Moshui swung open the nearest rear and pushed Zian into the back seat, following himself. Once inside, he closed the door and leaned forward. "Take us back to the base," he instructed a driver Zian could not see.

Once inside the car, Zian took a deep breath and assessed his physical status. While he stood trial, the Order of the White Lotus gave him an oversized pair of gray coveralls, which now fit snuggly. His wrists were still discolored and his bangs felt greasy against his forehead and cheeks. On the note of hygiene, Zian noticed that he smelled... a lot. His horrific scent was not that of not bathing for over a decade, but further that of not bathing throughout literally all of his puberty and wearing the same clothes throughout. It was a wonder that Moshui stood him throughout their fight. "Where are we going?" Zian inquired after completing his brief assessment.

"We're going to my organization's headquarters. It's in Republic City, though with all the protection we've put into it the Order of the White Lotus can't touch us."

"What is your 'organization' exactly?"

Moshui shrugged. "I am the current leader of Anying Jiaoben."

Zian stared at Moshui in shock. "Anying Jiaoben, as in those criminals who were led by the guy who killed the entire Republic City council and illegalized bending?"

"My predecessor was quite ambitious," Moshui replied with a shrug. As Zian looked like he was about to reply, Moshui spoke, "Before you ask any more questions, I have a question for you: how is your firebending so skillful after being imprisoned for eleven years? I figured I would be pulling you out of there on my own."

The Avatar took a deep breath and exhaled into a sigh. "Practice," he said flatly. Then, Zian thought to return the question, "What did you use to take out those guards?"

Though Moshui did not seem content with this answer, he still replied to Zian's question. "Just a little trick I picked up – it's a pain to use, really. I only use it when firearms would be too noisy. Any other questions?"

"Yeah: what does a criminal organization gain from freeing the Avatar?"

Moshui laughed. "What doesn't a criminal organization gain from freeing the Avatar?" After posing this rhetorical question, Moshui cleared his throat and continued more seriously, "Don't worry, you'll find out everything in due time. For now, I'd recommend you get some sleep on the drive over."

Anying Jiaoben Headquarters, Republic City, 235 AG

Sleep did not come to the Avatar, though he closed his eyes and pretended to doze so that Moshui might talk freely. To Zian's distress, Moshui did not speak to the driver or anyone else – undoubtedly he did not want to wake the exhausted Avatar. The drive lasted about twenty minutes, suggesting that the criminal organization's headquarters was situated on the opposite end of the city. No sounds of conflict could be heard, and Zian assumed this meant the Order of the White Lotus did not pursue them.

The vehicle came to a stop and Moshui tapped on Zian's shoulder. "Avatar, we've reached our destination."

Unflinching, Zian opened his eyes and took a deep breath. He said nothing and followed Moshui as the middle-aged man lead him from the vehicle. At a glance, the scenery was not much different than earlier: they had arrived in another garage, probably built at a similar time as the OWL building judging from the architectural similarities. This garage differed in its population; while the OWL garage was nearly deserted, this area had heavily-muscled guards situated at various vantage points and armed with automatic rifles. Their dark eyes followed the Avatar, but from looking at each guard Zian found he could not easily determine their heritage. "Don't worry; they're just to make sure suspicious visitors don't make it into the building."

"Suspicious visitors...?" Zian furrowed his brow as they ascended a few steps to the nearby elevator.

Moshui punched the up button next to the elevator before answering Zian's question, "In particular the Order of the White Lotus. Remember when I mentioned how the Order can't touch us?"

Zian pursed his lips. Moshui was giving him very little reason to trust Anying Jiaoben and a nagging part of the Avatar's mind could not help but think about how much his past incarnations would disprove of this alliance. So far, Zian had little choice but to follow Moshui. After all, some sort of freedom was better than being in that prison for the rest of his life. The elevator dinged and its metal doors slid open, allowing Moshui and Zian to enter.

A puce carpet covered the floor of the elevator, giving the whole space a sickeningly pink atmosphere with the metallic reflecting walls and ceiling. The doors slid shut, and Moshui pressed one of the elevators buttons – the one for the floor three from the top. As the elevator began to ascend, music from a set of speakers in the rear left corner faded in. It was a sort of smooth jazz melody that, rather than soothe, served to slightly irk the Avatar.

The irritation must have shown, because Moshui coughed uncomfortably and spoke, "I apologize for the music and carpet... I had the flu on the day the elevator décor was chosen."

Before Zian could reply, the elevator came to a halt and its doors slid open. Moshui stepped out and Zian followed into a much less obnoxious hallway. Undoubtedly the carpet brand was the same, as the texture was similar to that in the elevator; in the hallway, however, the carpet was a more neutral bluish gray. Matching walls – though much lighter in shade – met with an intricately designed molding against both the ceiling and floor. The hall seemed as if it could belong to a hotel however there were only five rooms spread throughout the entire hall. Moshui lead Zian to the farthest one.

"This will be your room. I recommend showering, at least. We expect you at a meeting in two hours – a representative will be outside to take you to the conference room." After explaining this much, Moshui paused in thought. "There are towels in there, and don't sleep just yet." With that, he held out a key, undoubtedly to the room.

Zian bowed politely and took the key. "Thank you," he replied cordially. Once Moshui turned and walked toward the elevator once more, Zian inserted the key and opened the door. Upon entering, he noticed that it practically was a hotel room: a closet to the left of the entrance with a bathroom just past it, double bed in the center of the room with two bedside tables, each with a lamp on top. The bed faced a high definition television, with a table next to it and two uncomfortable-looking chairs. There was one overstuffed armchair in a yellow and floral print. Zian sighed and turned into the bathroom.

In the bathroom, Zian positioned himself in front of the mirror. Not out of vanity, but rather out of curiosity he examined his features. Long, matted hair aside, the Avatar was surprised at how much he had matured. His lingering fat childish cheeks were gone, replaced with somewhat pronounced cheek bones and chin. Though having spent eleven years without shaving, Zian found that he did not have a hair on his chin – either he would not grow facial hair, or he had yet to do so. Then, there was the problem with his hair. Zian suspected that had he maintained basic hygiene, it would not look as horrible as it did: greasy, tangled, and unstylishly overgrown. The hair became his first mission; for about an hour, Zian ran a brush left on the counter of the bathroom through his hair, cringing as he caught and pulled through the tangles. Added to the soreness from fighting, the pain of his hair tugging against his scalp was almost unbearable. But he made it through, and turned on the water to start his shower.

While the water warmed up, Zian stripped out of the coveralls he had worn for more than a decade. They smelled horrid and the seams were falling apart – this item of clothing needed to be destroyed. Before that, though, Zian stepped into the shower to rinse the grime off. Warm water poured over his head, cascading down with whatever dirt and sweat covered his body as well. Bruises from the attacks of that earthbender covered his emaciated torso, stinging when the water rinsed over them. After having washed himself off, Zian turned his face toward the showerhead. He closed his eyes and let the warm water rinse over his face. However, his shower was not long-lived: a sudden banging at the door distracted him.

"Avatar!" The voice was not one Zian recognized, and he tensed at the shouting. "Avatar! Moshui sent me – open the door!"

Zian - 1 copy - 3

"What's wrong?"

With a sigh, Zian turned the nozzle of the shower to shut off the water. He grabbed a towel from the nearby rack and wrapped it around his waist while taking his time to get to the door. One hand grasped the door knob, while the other held onto his towel to keep it from falling. The door opened to reveal a girl on the other side, probably about fourteen or fifteen. She had an earphone in either ear, partially colored by mid-length brown hair, and carried what appeared to be a pile of clothes. Upon meeting her gaze, she only stared at him in shock. "What's wrong?" Zian asked.

"I... I... uh... Avah... uh..." Her eyes twitched – she looked almost like she was suffocating.

"Are these new clothes?" The Avatar eyed the pile.

"Yeh... yeh..."

Zian took a step closer to the girl, reaching for the pile. As he grabbed it, her knees buckled and she staggered back almost as though she had just fainted. He nodded a thank you before backing into the room and closing the door again. Once inside, he dried off his hair and glanced at the blinking digital clock on the bathroom counter. Twenty minutes until he had to go to this meeting. The Avatar set the pile of clothes on the bed in the main room, spreading them out to look at his options.

There were two pairs of paints: jeans and grayish black slacks. In addition, one blazer, two dress shirts, a lightweight sweatshirt, a tee-shirt, and an undershirt. Then, Moshui had also supplied underwear and socks, as well as two pairs of shoes – sneakers and dress shoes to match the apparent theme of dress clothes and casual clothes. Having been locked up for almost half his life, Zian did not know what sort of style best fit him, thus he kind of just went on instinct. Obviously he put on the underwear and socks, in addition choosing the jeans over the slacks. He put on the undershirt, with the lightweight sweatshirt over it. Not sure if it would look good or not, Zian also put on the blazer over the sweatshirt, flipping the hood up to hang over the collar of the coat. Before setting out, he padded his arm along his clothes; everything seemed comfortable. On his way out, Zian remembered to put the key to his room in his pocket so that he would be able to enter again.

Upon exiting the room, Zian was immediately met with one of those heavily muscled guards from the garage. Being practically inches from the man now, Zian noted that he had the dark skin and blue eyes of one of either of the Water Tribes. He wore a tight black shirt and black cargo pants, and stood outside Zian's room with his rifle in such a way that he looked almost as if he were posing. "Let's go," the guard said, walking towards the elevator without so much glancing at Zian.

This elevator ride was considerably more awkward. They entered the puce room, and immediately the guard stood in that pose-like stance again and said nothing. Luckily, the ride was only down two floors. Once they arrived and the doors slid open, the guard spoke again, "It's that room there." He nodded forward at a large room up ahead with glass walls. Stepping out of the elevator, Zian could see three people on the other side: Moshui, a woman in a cherry red qipao dress, and an elderly man in a suit. All three stopped to look at the Avatar as he neared the door and entered the conference room.

The conference room was not different from any other room in the building. Its color scheme was the same soft bluish gray, with a long table in the middle of the room. Several chairs lined the table – at a glance Zian could not count how many – and Moshui stood behind the chair on the left most end, with the two others standing behind chairs to his side opposite the door.

"Moshui, you didn't tell me he was such a handsome Avatar," the woman spoke first, smiling seductively through lips covered in lipstick that matched her vibrant dress. "You might have some competition."

Moshui waited until Zian was fully in the room before speaking, "Ah, I see Ila gave you the clothes. She's my daughter, which I doubt she told you." Then, he gestured to the woman, "This is Suyin Lao – yes that Suyin Lao – and this," he gestured to the elderly man, "is Norio Date."

Of course Suyin Lao's name was familiar – she was famous even before Zian was imprisoned – and for some reason the second name rang a bell with the Avatar as well. "Didn't the OWL guard talk about a 'Date'?"

"My brother, Ryuu," the old man interjected before Moshui could. "The goody-two-shoes made his way through the ranks of the Order while I earned more money than he can even imagine." He finished his explanation with a mischievous grin.

"To business: Avatar, you might be wondering why we brought you here." Moshui sat down, gesturing for all the others to do the same. Each sat in the chair nearest to them, with Zian seated just to the right of Moshui facing Suyin and Norio. "I'm going to tell you everything you need to know for now."

"Dear, don't you think he's earned a rest before jumping into politics?" Suyin batted her eyelashes first at Moshui, then Zian.

"No. He probably couldn't sleep well without knowing why we grabbed him anyway," Moshui looked at Zian for confirmation. The Avatar nodded. "To start, you're well aware that the incident eleven years ago destroyed almost the entire city, correct?"

It pained Zian to remember his actions, but he could not forget. "Yes, I am aware."

"And then that the Order of the White Lotus took power... blah blah blah. Well, after OWL took power, there were many who were not satisfied. Among them include my organization, Anying Jiaoben." Moshui drummed his fingers on the desk. "You see, we see that Republic City is no longer as profitable as it used to be. My predecessor practically destroyed Anying Jiaoben by taking over United Republic, and now we know that the only way for us to thrive is without Republic City – or United Republic – at all."

At this point, Moshui paused, prompting Zian to ask a question. "Do you mean to destroy an entire country?"

Moshui laughed. "You could put it like that. In essence, we want you to realize your full Avatar power so you can take out the Order and encourage the citizens of United Republic to trust you enough to run them out of their homes so we can burn it all to the ground and then bam! Profit."

Zian shook his head. "That's outright criminal."

"Well," Moshui began, shrugging and smiling, "you don't have much of a choice. We figured if you refused, we could just kill you, find the next Avatar before the Order even knows your dead, and indoctrinate him or her from a young age so he or she couldn't even imagine not following an order."

"Oh," was all Zian could think to reply.

"Now, get some rest. Tomorrow we'll give you instructions for your first assignment."

The meeting ended, and all four people stood. Norio adjusted his coat, leaving first, followed by Suyin Lao who ran her hand across Moshui's chest as she departed. Not finding anything else to say, Zian turned and left for his room. He clicked the elevator button in the hall, and jumped when the same guard from earlier was still standing there in his bizarre stance. Hesitantly, Zian entered and the guard punched the button for Zian's room. Once again, Zian was thankful for the short distance between the conference room and his floor, quickly exiting the elevator as soon as possible to hurry down the hall to his room.

He inserted the key into the lock, twisted it open, and entered. Everything was just as he had left it – for some reason he had a nagging feeling that someone might have broken into the room. Each clothing item was in the exact same spot, and taking a deep breath Zian sat at the foot of his bed. His legs folded over each other and he held his hands in front of his knees, taking a deep breath to enter meditation.

Before long, a hazy blue, phantom-like figure appeared before him. Per usual, the figure was dressed in a long robe with his flowing hair and beard stretching down to his waist. Zian stood, his spirit stepping out of his physical body to face the other. "Avatar Roku... what should I do?"

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